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Hard Rock pledges support for child-protection code

From left to right, Jumorrow Johnson, anti-human trafficking coordinator, community outreach director and president of the Broward Human Trafficking Coalition for the Broward State Attorney’s Office – 17th Judicial Circuit of Florida; Stephanie Piimauna, senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer for Seminole Hard Rock; Big Cypress Councilwoman Mariann Billie; Hard Rock International Chairman and Seminole Gaming CEO, Jim Allen; Broward County State Attorney Harold F. Pryor; Seminole Tribe Chairman, Marcellus W. Osceola Jr.; ECPAT-USA CEO Lori L. Cohen; Angie Martinez, Hard Rock’s director of global social responsibility and tribal government relations; and Paul Pellizzari, Hard Rock’s VP of global social responsibility, gather May 25 after the signing ceremony. (Photo: Chris Almeida/Hard Rock International)

HOLLYWOOD — The protection of children and the prevention of human trafficking in the tourism and hospitality industry was the focus of an intimate and somber signing ceremony May 25 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood.

Stephanie Piimauna, senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer for Seminole Hard Rock, led an hour-long program featuring the Seminole Tribe’s chairman, Marcellus W. Osceola Jr., and Hard Rock International’s chairman and Seminole Gaming CEO, Jim Allen. Big Cypress Councilwoman Mariann Billie was also in attendance. The occasion was to sign ECPAT-USA’s tourism child-protection code of conduct – a voluntary set of business principles to help prevent human trafficking.

Human trafficking is generally defined as the unlawful act of transporting or coercing people, often young people, in order to benefit from their work or service, typically in the form of forced labor or
sexual exploitation.

Brooklyn, New York-based ECPAT-USA, led by its CEO Lori L. Cohen who was also at the signing, is a leading U.S. anti-child trafficking organization whose goal is to end commercial sexual exploitation of children through awareness, advocacy, policy and legislation. Its code offers a framework for companies to establish policies and protocols and to train and educate employees on how to identify a human trafficker or a victim of human trafficking while going about their workday.

Allen said signing the code is the progression of an ongoing commitment by Hard Rock and Seminole Gaming to “help prevent sexual, labor and other forms of exploitation of children and vulnerable people, while supporting human rights.”

“This topic is something that is uncomfortable, but the reality is that we need to do more,” Allen said in a ballroom that included dozens of Hard Rock employees. “Today is the next step forward to protect those who are being exploited.”

Earlier this year, Hard Rock and ECPAT-USA were partners in the “Social Identity Quest” program designed to educate young people on ways to protect themselves from online predators, who often coerce and groom young people into human trafficking through social media channels. ECPAT-USA said the program has reached more than 1 million high school students across the U.S. so far.

Hard Rock and ECPAT-USA are also exploring ways to adapt the program for Native American communities and Indigenous populations – groups that disproportionately suffer high rates of sex trafficking and child exploitation.

“This is a problem and it’s only going to get worse if we don’t do something about it and bring awareness,” Chairman Osceola said in his remarks. “We have a platform and we’re able to use that for the good. We are here, we understand and we want to bring awareness at a global level.”

Broward County State Attorney Harold F. Pryor, whose office operates a human trafficking task force, pledged his support and signed the code with Chairman Osceola and Allen. He said it’s important because South Florida is a hub for human trafficking.

“We will do everything in our power to find, arrest and prosecute every last human trafficker who we have jurisdiction to bring justice to,” Pryor said in his remarks. “We will continue to expend the resources and the time to halt the online exploitation of children and the trafficking of children for sexual exploitation in the travel and tourism industry.”

The Seminole Tribe is the parent entity of Hard Rock International, which operates venues in 68 countries with 253 locations. More is at hardrock.com. To access the Social Identity Quest program, go to socialidentityquest.com. More information about ECPAT-USA can be found at ecpatusa.org.

From left, Big Cypress Councilwoman Mariann Billie , Jim Allen and Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. were at the code’s signing. (Photo: Chris Almeida/Hard Rock International)
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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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